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Strengthening Community Connections Amid the Coronavirus


Strenghtening_Community_Connections_bodyThere’s no getting around it—these are scary and stressful times. As we stay at home watching a daily litany of news surrounding the impact of COVID-19, it’s hard not to let anxiety creep in. Widespread social distancing measures have worked to slow the spread of the virus, but they have also left many of us feeling cut off from our communities of support during these unprecedented times.

While the weight of that separation can be difficult, it makes coming together and finding ways to strengthen our communities that much more imperative, and people everywhere are rising to the challenge.

In Atlanta, neighbors and families are rising up and showing their support for the healthcare workers dedicating themselves to fighting on the front lines of the pandemic by cheering from their balconies every evening.

Broaden your community connections

Now more than ever, community connection is important. Research from RWIF suggests that “individuals who feel a sense of security, belonging, and trust in their community have better health. People who don’t feel connected are less inclined to act in healthy ways or work with others to promote well-being for all.”

All across the country, people are coming up with creative ways to join together and support each other through these difficult times. After school closures interrupted the time they were getting to spend with their students, teachers in Maryland have been doing drive-by “parades” to see their students and reassure them that they’re still there to support them. According to WLJA, “The teachers decorated their cars, made signs, honked and waved to the families that lined the sidewalks and yards. It was a great way for the teachers to show that they love and miss their students, and for the students to see their missed teachers.”

Donate to your local food bank

With 17 million new unemployment claims filed over the last three weeks and no access to free meal programs provided by schools, the number of families suffering from food insecurity has risen sharply in the past month. According to Hunger + Health, “Food banks are already reporting increased demand, while facing operational challenges, including declines in volunteers and retail donations, and demand for charitable food assistance is expected to remain at elevated levels for the foreseeable future.”

We are seeing this in our own communities. The San Antonio Express News reports that ten thousand cars waited at a food distribution point run by the San Antonio Food Bank over Easter weekend. “It was a rough one today,” said Food Bank president and CEO Eric Cooper after the largest single-day distribution in the nonprofit’s 40-year history.”
The number of people lining up in Phoenix, Arizona has tripled. In Massachusetts, food pantries have increased distribution by 849 percent.

To support our community and the San Antonio Food Bank’s mission of “fighting hunger and feeding hope, the SWBC Foundation recently donated $50,000 to help feed our neighbors in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re in a position to help, consider donating food or money to support your local food bank. You can search by zip code to find the one closest to you here.

Deliver groceries and other supplies to elderly and at-risk neighbors

The elderly community is particularly vulnerable during this time. The CDC reports that, “8 out of 10 COVID-19 related deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years old and older.” While all of us must be wary and follow social distancing guidelines, this is crucial for the elderly and for people of any age who have underlying medical conditions that might put them at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

The private sector is rising to the challenge of protecting our most vulnerable citizens. DoorDash has waived delivery fees for shoppers over the age of 60, CVS Pharmacy is waiving charges for home delivery of prescription medications, and many grocery retailers have started reserving special shopping hours for senior citizens.

Individuals are doing their part, too. University of Nevada student Jayde Powell formed a group called Shopping Angels that connects volunteer shoppers with local citizens in need. “To help make sure her volunteers don't put the elderly at risk, Powell asks her Angels to wear gloves while picking up, transporting, and delivering groceries. They also do not enter people's homes.”

Consider reaching out to those members of your community for whom a routine trip to the grocery store might put them at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. If you’re already connected with an older friend, neighbor, or family member, give them a call and offer to save them a trip to the grocery store by doing their weekly shopping and dropping it off at their doorstep. This could also be a great opportunity to grow your community connections by volunteering for outreach programs like Meals on Wheels.

Send a virtual “thank you”

Just because our lives have shifted to spending time apart does not mean that we cannot come together to make a difference. SWBC employees are showing their support by saying “thank you” to essential workers and medical professionals who are working hard every day to help keep us safe by sharing inspiring messages, videos, and photos during United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County’s Thank-A-Thon and thanking the medical professionals at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa by participating in their #toCHRISTUSwithLove campaign.

In the midst of a crisis, kindness counts. Receiving words of encouragement and inspiration can really help lift someone’s spirits, and who couldn’t use that right now? Consider participating in a larger campaign to help show your support, or simply reach out to your friends and loved ones with an inspirational message to brighten their day.

In the age of social distance, it’s important to keep in mind that even though we aren’t seeing each other on a daily basis, we are and we will get through this together. The personal sacrifices that we are making every day to stay at home are for the health of our larger community. While we might not be able to gather in large groups, we can still support one another by reaching out with kindness and offering help where we can. And remember—no declaration of social distancing will impact the compassion we can still share.

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